ARLINGTON, Texas — Los Angeles Dodgers manager Dave Roberts did not commit to a starting pitcher for Game 7 of the National League Championship Series after the Dodgers forced the win-or-go-home showdown with a 3-1 victory over the Atlanta Braves on Saturday.
While rookie Tony Gonsolin, their Game 2 starter, is on schedule to pitch, Roberts has a number of potential options. Rookie reliever Brusdar Graterol could be a one- or two-inning opener, Game 3 starter Julio Urias is expected to play a significant role in the Dodgers’ plans and even Clayton Kershaw, the Game 4 starter who would be limited but has talked his way into pitching on short rest in past postseasons, might factor in.
“We are still talking through it,” Roberts said. “We got some good names available. But in terms of how we sort of deploy these guys, we haven’t figured it out yet.”
Utilizing an opener would allow Los Angeles to use one of its best arms to attack the dangerous top of the Braves’ lineup, with Ronald Acuña Jr., Freddie Freeman, Marcell Ozuna, Travis d’Arnaud, Ozzie Albies and Dansby Swanson. The availability of Urias to potentially pitch late innings in high-stress situations could leave him in the bullpen for the beginning of the game. Though the Dodgers would love for Kershaw to start Game 1 of the World Series, if they decide he offers them the best chance to work through the top of the order — or come in during a tight situation later in the game — they won’t hesitate to use him.
Whatever the Dodgers’ plan, Roberts said, “there’s a good chance Gonsolin will take down a bulk” of the game’s innings. He was originally slated to pitch in Game 4 but was moved up to Game 2 after back spasms postponed Kershaw’s start for two days. The right-handed Gonsolin allowed five runs in a loss that left the Dodgers in an 0-2 hole.
They clawed back from their deficit with victories in Games 5 and 6, and after holding on in a close game Saturday, they have the opportunity to clinch their third World Series berth in four years with a win Sunday.
Atlanta will counter with rookie Ian Anderson, who has yet to allow a run this postseason in 15 2/3 innings. He shut out the Dodgers for four innings in Game 2, though he was uncharacteristically wild. With starter Max Fried going seven innings in Game 6, the Braves rested most of their bullpen arms before Game 7.
“We’re in a good spot,” Braves manager Brian Snitker said. “I like the guy we’re gonna pitch. Everybody can pitch. Everybody’s available.”
NLCS Game 7 will follow the American League Championship Series’ pennant-deciding game Saturday night. It’s only the third time in history both championship series have extended to seven games. After instituting the LCS in 1969, MLB expanded it from a best-of-five series to best of seven. It took nearly two decades for a pair of Game 7s to be played, with it happening in 2003 — and one year for it to come to fruition again, with Boston beating New York and St. Louis toppling Houston in 2004.
Since then, only six other LCS have gone to seven games: the 2006 NLCS (won by St. Louis), 2007 ALCS (Boston), 2008 ALCS (Tampa Bay), 2012 NLCS (San Francisco), 2017 ALCS (Houston) and 2018 NLCS (Los Angeles).
“That’s what you live for, man,” Roberts said.
His contemporary doesn’t see it quite that way.
“Game 7 is another baseball game,” Snitker said. “It’s not 4th-and-1 and let’s get the first down. It’s a baseball game, and we have to treat it as such.”